Agnes Shipman Robertson was born January 24, 1895 and received her early education in Joplin, Missouri. Majoring in music with a minor in art, she received her teaching credentials from Missouri State College in Springfield and Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee. Agnes then returned to Joplin, where she became a music teacher and later an assistant principal. While she was head of the junior high music program, several of the groups under her tutelage earned recognition at interstate competitions. Agnes was also active in church and community musical groups.
In her work, Agnes observed that schools could accomplish more with better equipment and proper materials. She accepted a job with an educational company and traveled most of the United States and Canada as she explained the importance of proper equipment and materials, as well as their efficient use by educators.
Through her travels with the educational company, Agnes formed connections with many teachers, superintendents and principals, and attended many National Education Association conventions.
It was also through her travels that Agnes frequently spoke with teachers like herself who knew of a fellow teacher in the system, but did not know her personally. Agnes realized a need for an organization that would facilitate teachers coming together and getting to know each other.
Former Executive Administrator Opal Lunsford told of Agnes driving across the country to facilitate the birth of the organization. "Agnes was 24 hours a day, eight days a week, Alpha Delta Kappa."
Agnes and Co-Founder Marie Neal were very good friends. "Agnes and Tom Neal, Sr., Marie’s husband, worked together representing the book company," Opal said. In Alpha Delta Kappa "Agnes was the promoter, she did the traveling. Marie Neal kept the records and handled the money in her office at home." Often, "Tom and Marie would go with her to install chapters. Agnes carried the initiation material in the trunk of her car. They would take cookies and get punch for the initiation ceremonies."
Agnes Shipman married L.E. Robertson in February 1966.
When Alpha Delta Kappa was incorporated under Missouri law, Founders Agnes Shipman, Marie Neal, Marion Southall and Hattie Poppino signed the incorporation agreement. Marion’s husband, Richard Southall, was the attorney. On August 13, 1947, Alpha Delta Kappa, honorary fraternal organization for women educators, was incorporated. Agnes served as the first Grand President from 1947-1955, Executive Director from 1955-1985, and Executive Director Emeritus from 1985-1987.
Agnes "always had visions," Opal said. "Every night she would come up with something new. She would come back from trips loaded with ideas. She would pass these ideas on staff to implement so that she could then go on to other things. She was a great thinker as she drove. She thought of ways to work things, ways to grow." Agnes would start about three chapters in a state and leave them with field representatives she had trained to assist the state in developing more chapters on its own. Opal remembers that "as she traveled, she developed as well, and always came back with new techniques for membership development, which was always her primary goal."
Opal spent some time traveling with Agnes to conferences and conventions. "Agnes was interesting to travel with," Opal said. "She was quite a speaker, she was great before an audience. She was loving and kind. The members more than took care of her (when she traveled). She made fast friends, friends for a lifetime. She never forgot anyone."
Even after her retirement in 1985, Agnes continued to tirelessly promote Alpha Delta Kappa until her death on April 27, 1987. Opal said she will always think of Agnes as "an inspiration to everyone. She was a very strong person. If she had an idea she thought would work, she upheld it. She was always in total control." She believes Agnes would be proud of Alpha Delta Kappa today. "I think she would be very pleased. We’re all very happy with it. We’re happy to be associated with professional people. We strive to do what’s best for Alpha Delta Kappa. While we make changes and go forward, we try to maintain our heritage."